The ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital site “has been a red herring from the start”, the Health Minister has told Newstalk Breakfast.
Cabinet last night delayed signing off on the relocation of the facility to the St Vincent's Campus in South Dublin for two weeks.
In the meantime, the Government has published the legal agreements relating to the new hospital and the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will answer questions on the matter at the Oireachtas health committee.
Speaking last night, Minister Donnelly insisted Cabinet ministers were still supportive of the plan, noting that the delay would allow time to address the “very genuine concerns” that the Catholic Church will have a say on women’s reproductive care.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Minister Donnelly insisted that the land I no longer church land – noting that it has been transferred to a new company that “doesn’t reference any religious ethos in its constitution whatsoever”.
He said the issue of the ownership of the land “has been a red herring in this from the start”.
“No one is suggesting there is any issue with the services being provided in Holles Street,” he said. “Everyone has a lot of praise and everyone knows that the services that must be provided are being provided.
“We don’t own the land under Holles Street. In fact, we don’t own the building at Holles Street.
“We don’t own the land under many primary care centres and we don’t own the land under GP clinics. Nobody would reasonably say that because the State doesn’t own the land that GP clinics operate on, that somehow GPs would be influenced by the ownership of the land.
“It is simply a red herring and what is important - and I have discussed this in detail with the Attorney General - is we have layers of protection place.”
The ownership of the land has been transferred to a new company called St Vincent’s Holdings CLG.
The company’s constitution does not reference religious ethos; however, it does reference the core values of its religious founders, the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group – which is committed to the ethos of the Catholic Church.
Minister Donnelly said the most important thing is that there are now multiple layers of protection in place to ensure the hospital provides full medical care to women.
“Not only will the National Maternity Hospital continue to have full clinical and operational independence - it has it today in Holles Street, it will have it in the future in Elm Park - we have gone actually further to say that the new National Maternity Hospital is legally obliged to provide all services permissible under law,” he said.
He noted that the agreement also hands the Health Minister a ‘golden share’ which allows him to “directly intervene and direct the NMH to provide all legal services” should it ever become necessary.
“The questions a lot of your listeners are asking are, will termination of pregnancy, will tubal ligation, will gender affirming surgery, will assisted reproduction be available at the new national maternity hospital?” he said.
“The answer is an absolutely clear and categoric, yes they will.”
You can listen back here: